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This article is part of the supplement: Proceedings of the First and Second European Workshops on Preterm Labour of the Special Non-Invasive Advances in Fetal and Neonatal Evaluation (SAFE) Network of Excellence

Open Access Proceedings

Overview. Preterm labour: mechanisms and management

Andrés López Bernal

Author Affiliations

University of Bristol, Clinical Science at South Bristol (Obstetrics and Gynaecology), St Michael's Hospital and Dorothy Hodgkin Building, Whitson Street, Bristol, BS1 3NY, UK

BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 2007, 7(Suppl 1):S2  doi:10.1186/1471-2393-7-S1-S2

Published: 1 June 2007

Abstract

Preterm birth remains a major cause of perinatal mortality and long term handicap in surviving infants. This is one of the most important clinical problems in Europe and across the world. While some preterm births are iatrogenic, associated with severe complications of pregnancy (e.g. hypertensive disorders, antepartum haemorrhage, infection), or the result of multiple pregnancies following assisted reproduction, a high proportion of preterm births occur following spontaneous preterm labour of unknown cause. Early intervention in this group of women would have a significant impact on neonatal mortality and morbidity figures. However, the endocrine changes preceding parturition in women remain elusive and this makes it difficult to predict spontaneous labour at term, let alone preterm labour. Moreover our understanding of myometrial physiology remains rudimentary, limiting our options to devise improved pharmacological strategies to control uterine contractility when this is indicated. There is a need for concerted European and international research efforts to improve our knowledge of the mechanism of labour in women, to identify diagnostic markers to predict preterm labour and to develop uterine selective drugs to inhibit uterine contractions in a safe and efficient manner. This aim will be achieved by multidisciplinary research efforts from academics and industry, using traditional laboratory and clinical research methods, as well as novel technologies.